Nigeria is Ready for e-voting, Ekeh Tells Reps

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Emma Okonji

The Chairman of Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh has said that the time was ripe for Nigeria to deepen its democratic culture through the full deployment of electronic voting (e-voting) at all elections.

Ekeh, who made the disclosure at a recent retreat organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral and Political Parties Matters in Abuja, listed the benefits that would come to Nigeria, if the country deploys electronic voting at all elections.

Ekeh, who featured as the keynote speaker at the retreat, disclosed that with the rapid pace of global technological advancements, Nigeria stands to reap a lot of benefits from the deployment of e-voting. He stressed that the initiative will go a long way in reducing litigations and strengthening the faith of Nigerians in the electoral process.

While delivering a paper titled ‘New Thoughts, Ideas and Innovations on use of ICT in Elections’, the Zinox Group boss affirmed that the gains recorded with the use of the card readers in the 2015 general elections, showed that with the adoption of e-voting, the country would take a huge leap towards sound democratic governance.

“The country is ripe for transition to electronic voting. A lot of us are in this business because technology does not lie – it’s either you are right or you are wrong. With the use of the card readers in the last general elections, we saw a significant reduction in electoral fraud and other electoral malpractices,” Ekeh said.
He, however, explained that a few challenges were also encountered as no technology can be said to be 100 per cent perfect.

“There are about 774 local governments in the country and each one with about 10,800 polling units, some of which are in the riverine areas. Even if the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) purchases 1000 vehicles, it will still find it difficult, logistics wise, to cover all the areas and this leaves the process open to manipulation by emergency contractors as INEC lacks the requisite man-power, ” he said.

If finally adopted and implemented, he said, voters would no longer have to travel back to their wards to cast their votes. He added INEC can also monitor the entire process easily as each electronic voting device is equipped with a tracker and can be configured to shut down immediately voting ends.

Tracing the country’s march and transition towards electronic voting, Ekeh examined the benefits and challenges of the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines used during the 2007 elections and the painstaking process which eventually culminated in the use of the card readers for the 2015 general elections.

He pleaded with the law makers to support INEC in its effort to adopt electronic voting, insisting that until Nigeria embraces this, the nation will not move forward.

Also speaking at the retreat, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu disclosed that one of the major cost of elections being borne by the commission was as a result of the numerous litigations which were a recurrent feature of conducted elections in the country.

Reiterating the Commission’s commitment to the conduct of credible elections, Yakubu affirmed that the journey to electronic voting is a gradual one which would undoubtedly go a long way in strengthening the nation’s democracy.
The retreat, which was supported by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), also featured a review of current electoral laws in Nigeria and a status report on amendment bills before the committee.